We meet at the Indian Oil Corporation’s headquarters in Bandra. The ID card slung around his neck and the crisp formals tell you that 41-year-old Anand Neelakantan is an executive at a corporate giant. However, what sets this unassuming man apart is his highly successful career as an author of mythological fiction. Neelakantan’s bestselling debut novel, Asura: Tale of the Vanquished (2012), turned Ramayana on its head. Was the 10-headed demon, Ravana, really evil as we’re led to believe? Was Lord Rama divine? In his book, Neelakantan questions our age-old notions and depicts Ravana as an ambitious person oppressed by the system. Then, in Roll of the Dice (2013), part one of the Ajaya series, he re-tells the events leading up to the Mahabharata war, from the Kauravas’ point of view. Now, in the second and final part, Rise of Kali, he takes the story ahead from Duryodhana's perspective.

    You’ve said you were fascinated by mythology while growing up. How did epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana shape your childhood?
    Bards would often visit my village, Thripunithura (near Cochin, Kerala). We looked forward to their oral retellings of all the Puranas. It was a major source of entertainment.

    You’re drawn to anti-heroes. Why do you choose to write their side of the story?
    They appear more human. It was easy to identify with Ravana because, like most people, he has a lot of flaws. Rama is an ideal. One is a god, the other is a man. This is the case with Yudhisthira and Duryodhana too. 

    In Rise of Kali, you voiced some of your own misgivings about the Bhagvad Gita.
    I’ve expressed some of my doubts through Arjuna’s and Balrama’s. For instance, Balrama asks Krishna, “If Duryodhan is evil, why not kill only him? Why create a war?” Krishna doesn’t have a convincing answer to that.

    How do you go about researching for your novels?
    I speak to people from back home who keep the oral tradition alive. They have different takes on some of the smaller aspects in the same story. Then, I refer to a Puranic encyclopedia written a hundred years ago in Malayalam. It has a whole list of characters, in alphabetical order, and their stories. It’s quite phenomenal.

    How do you re-imagine a scene that’s been written about endlessly and read with reverence?
    When I sit down to write, I get into the skin of the characters. It’s like an actor playing his part. That kind of schizophrenia is required for a writer. For instance, I might have prayed half an hour ago, but Krishna is not a god when I start writing.

    What’s next?
    I am working on a young adult book series about the age old story of Kacha-Devayani (story of how Kacha, from the Deva clan and Devayani, daughter of Asura guru Shukracharya, fall in love). My daughter, who is nearly 13, is a big fan of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. She finds Indian mythology boring, which is very offensive to me (laughs). So, I'm writing this fantasy love story for her.

    Rise of Kali by Anand Neelakantan is out now.
    Price: Rs 399 (Leadstart Publishing)

Sensex crashes 590 pts as Re hits 66-mark, Food Bill weighs

  • PTI, Mumbai
  • |
  • Updated: Aug 27, 2013 16:47 IST

Snapping a three-day rising streak, the BSE benchmark Sensex on Tuesday plunged over 590 points to end below 18,000-level as the rupee nosedived to 66-mark against dollar and concerns related to government's fiscal burden after the passage of Food Security Bill weighed on sentiment.

Investors lost a whopping Rs 1.7 lakh crore in wealth as across-the-board selling saw over 1,500 stocks closing in red.

Banks, capital goods, power and realty were among the hardest hit as investors pulled out money from blue-chips.

The 30-share Sensex, which had gained 652 points in past three sessions, tumbled by 590.05 points, or 3.18 per cent to 17,968.08, a level last seen on August 21.

On similar lines, the broad-based National Stock Exchange index Nifty fell below a crucial 5300 level by dropping 189.05 points, or 3.45% to 5,287.45. SX40 index, the flagship index of MCX-SX, closed 391.41 points or 3.55% down at 10629.77.

Brokers said with the rupee hitting a new record low of 66 per dollar in intra-day trade, market participants resorted to panic selling on concerns over increased capital outflows.

The selling pressure gathered momentum on worries that the Food Security plan would worsen government's fiscal burden while a weakening global trend on growing tension in Syria and surging oil prices also weighed, brokers added.

In 30-share Sensex pack, 27 stocks fell. HDFC Ltd dropped 7.70% to Rs 686.86, HDFC Bank by 8.04% to Rs 560.90, SBI by 2.40% to Rs 1,519.90 and ICICI Bank by 3.26% to Rs 803.30.

Among others, Reliance Industries, Sun Pharma, ONGC, NTPC, Maruti Suzuki, Mahindra and Mahindra, BHEL, Larsen and Toubro, Bharti Airtel, ITC, Coal India and Hindal suffered heavy losses.

Bucking the general weak trend, stocks of software exporting companies led by Infosys and Tata Consultancy gained on hopes the strong rupee would boost their revenues.

The banking index suffered the most by losing 5.34% to 10,108.72 followed by capital goods by 4.71% to 6,980.68. Power index fell by 4.51% to 1,355.43 and realty index by 3.95% to 1,186.88.


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